MEDIA ADVISORY: Questions about Insurance Issues in the Wake of Valley and Butte Fires in California? I.I.I. Experts, Resources Available to Explain Wildfire Coverage

Seven of Ten Costliest Wildfires in U.S. History Have Occurred in California


New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500;
California Press Office: (707) 490-9365;


NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, September 14, 2015 — Reporters covering the wildfires in Northern California, can contact the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) for facts, statistics and analysis by insurance industry experts.


The Valley Fire, which raged through Northern California over the weekend, spread quickly—from 50 to 50,000 acres within a 24-hour period— destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Janet Ruiz, I.I.I.’s Northern California-based representative, is in the area and available to conduct interviews in person or via Skype. She can be reached at or (707) 490-9375.


Over the 20-year period 1995 to 2014, fires—including wildfires—accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophe losses, totaling about $6.0 billion, according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO.


California is the epicenter of wildfire activity in the United States. Seven of the ten costliest wildfires in U.S. history in terms of insured losses have occurred in California. The costliest of these was the 1991 Oakland Hills fire which produced $2.7 billion in claims (in 2014 dollars). The most recent was the 2007 Witch Fire near San Diego, which resulted in insured losses of $1.5 billion (also in 2014 dollars).


By households By percent By insured wildfire loss
Rank State Households at
high or
extreme risk
from wildfires (1)
Rank State Percent o households
at high or extreme
risk from wildfires
Rank State Largest insured
wildfire loss (year)
1 California 1,989,100 1 Idaho 24.1% 1 California $1.7 billion (1991)
2 Texas 1,299,800 2 Colorado 16.9 2 Colorado $450 million (2012)
3 Colorado 373,600 3 California 14.5 3 Texas $530 million (2011)
4 Washington 163,400 4 New Mexico 13.6 4 New Mexico $140 million (2000)
5 Idaho 160,800 5 Texas 13.0 5 Arizona $120 million (2002)
6 Oregon 159,800 6 Utah 12.8 6 Idaho NA
7 Arizona 159,100 7 Oregon 9.5 7 Nevada NA
8 Utah 125,500 8 Washington 5.7 8 Oregon NA
9 New Mexico 122,600 9 Arizona 5.6 9 Utah NA
10 Nevada 59,100 10 Nevada 5.1 10 Washington NA

(1) Number of households is based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

NA=Data not available.

Source: Verisk Insurance Solutions – Underwriting and Verisk Climate units of Verisk Analytics®.


The I.I.I. has consumer tips on insurance coverage, mitigation and evacuation in the event of a wildfire.


Damage caused by fire and smoke are covered under standard homeowners, renters and business owners insurance policies and under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. Water or other damage caused by fire fighters to extinguish the fire is also covered under these policies. In California the California FAIR Plan covers residential and commercial properties located in brush and wildfire areas. 


Standard homeowner and renters insurance policies cover the cost of additional living expenses (ALE) when there is an insured disaster. This includes the expense of living away from your home if there is a mandatory evacuation or it is damaged and made unlivable—ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses, over and above customary living costs, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.


Voluntary evacuations that are not required by authorities do not generally trigger ALE coverage, however.


For detailed information on how to protect your home against wildfires, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) provides a Wildfire Checklist.


The I.I.I.’s free Know Your Plan app provides a step-by-step guide to help prepare for disasters and evacuations.



Articles: How to Create a Home Inventory; How to Plan an Evacuation; Evacuation with Pets

Facts and Statistics: Wildfires

Issues Update: Wildfires

Videos: Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge; Four Ways to Prepare for a Disaster




The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its You Tube Channel. Information about I.I.I. mobile apps can be found here.


Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500;

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